Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Discussing the Theology of the Emergent Church: My Discussion with Brian McLaren
04/30/2011 - James WhiteMy sincere thanks to Justin Brierley for inviting me to dialogue with the biggest name in the Emergent movement, Brian McLaren on Justin's fine program from London, Unbelievable. You can download the program here, and I would strongly suggest subscribing to Justin's program. You sure hear enough of it on The Dividing Line as I interact with the discussions that take place there from a Reformed and presuppositional perspective!
Guessing About God: Mormonism's Inability to Resist the Onslaught of Modernistic Skepticism (Part 6)
04/29/2011 - James White
Another consideration is the legitimacy of his criteria for defining Christianity for those who lived before the development of the specific doctrines he touts as foundational. There was no such thing as a Trinitarian prior to the fourth century CE. James may argue that it is biblical in origin, but no one prior to Nicea ever expressed the notion as James understands it. Were they Christians?
It is absurd, of course, to say that there was “no such thing as a Trinitarian prior to the fourth century CE.” I would find it doubtful that Mr. McClellan would have read The Forgotten Trinity, but as I argued there, the Apostles themselves were experiential Trinitarians. Peter had heard the Father speak on the Mount of Transfiguration, he had walked with the Son, he was then indwelt by the Spirit. This is why the Trinity is the matrix from which the New Testament writings speak. The Trinity is not so much a revelation found in those documents as the ground and air out of which they speak, the revelation itself having taken place before the first word of the New Testament was penned. The revelation of the Trinity is to be found in the incarnation of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and these events took place intertestamentally. No one has put it better than Warfield:
We cannot speak of the doctrine of the Trinity, therefore, if we study exactness of speech, as revealed in the New Testament, any more than we can speak of it as revealed in the Old Testament. The Old Testament was written before its revelation; the New Testament after it. The revelation itself was made not in word but in deed. It was made in the incarnation of God the Son, and the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit. The relation of the two Testaments to this revelation is in the one case that of preparation for it, and in the other that of product of it. The revelation itself is embodied just in Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is as much to say that the revelation of the Trinity was incidental to, and the inevitable effect of, the accomplishment of redemption. It was in the coming of the Son of God in the likeness of sinful flesh to offer Himself a sacrifice for sin; and in the coming of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment, that the Trinity of Persons in the Unity of the Godhead was once for all revealed to men. (B.B. Warfield, “The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity,” The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), II:144.
And he went on to say,
We may understand also, however, from the same central fact, why it is that the doctrine of the Trinity lies in the New Testament rather in the form of allusions than in express teaching, why it is rather everywhere presupposed, coming only here and there into incidental expression, than formally inculcated. It is because the revelation, having been made in the actual occurrences of redemption, was already the common property of all Christian hearts (ibid., p. 145).
As a result, we find the writings of the early church reflecting this Trinitarian understanding, speaking easily of the existence of one true God, while likewise speaking of the deity of persons clearly differentiated in the thinking of the writer. Note how Ignatius of Antioch, writing around AD 108, speaks as a Trinitarian:
My spirit is but an offscouring of the cross, which is a scandal to the unbelieving, but to us it is salvation and life eternal. Where is the wise man? Where is the disputer? Where is the boasting of those who are called understanding? For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to a dispensation of God, from the seed of David, yes, but of the Holy Spirit as well. (Ephesians 18)
Here we have a full recognition of the deity of Christ, yet a reference to “God” (evidently the Father), and the Holy Spirit, just as we have in New Testament passages. This is seen even more clearly in another famous text from the martyr bishop:
…you being stones of a temple, prepared before as a building of God the Father, being raised up to the heights through the mechanism of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, and using as a rope the Holy Spirit….(Ephesians 9)....
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Today on the Dividing Line: Rob Bell Gets Honest and Calls
04/28/2011 - James WhiteStarted off briefly addressing some issues that arose from my reading of a great new book by Michael Brown, A Queer Thing Happened to America. I hope to have Michael on to discuss this topic soon, but till then, you will want to get your own copy. Want to help A&O out in the process? Get it through our Amazon store, found here!
Then we listened to Rob Bell be a lot more open and honest on a liberal talk show than he was on Unbelievable, then took calls. Here's the program.
A Fascinating Reminder of the 1914 False Prophecy
04/27/2011 - James WhiteI used to spend a lot of time on the subject of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. It was the second major group I tackled and studied. I still have a huge number of their old, old books, shelves of them, actually. I also have a whole set of what are called "bound volumes," yearly compilations of all of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Of course, much of this is now available digitally on the Watchtower Library CD Rom (which isn't easy to get hold of, but not impossible). Anyway, I just checked the dark corner of one of my shelves and pulled out the bound volume for the Watchtowers of 1984. On the cover of the May 15, 1984 publication (repeated on page 4) is a picture of a group of elderly people, all looking upward. The title give is "1914: The Generation That Will Not Pass Away." You will look in vain for such confident promises in today's Watchtower publications, as they have effectively buried the 1914 prophecy, but it was front and center for many decades. In fact, on page 5 of this same publication we read, "If Jesus used 'generation' in that sense and we apply it to 1914, then the babies of that generation are now 70 years old or older. And others alive in 1914 are in their 80's or 90's, a few even having reached a hundred. There are still many millions of that generation alive. Some of them 'will by no means pass away until all things occur.'---Luke 21:32." Well, I was sent this graphic a few days ago. It contains that same cover picture (I double checked it in my own printed edition), but identifies each and every person in the picture by name, and gives the date when they all passed away. A tremendous testimony to the status of the Watchtower Society as a false prophet---just like Harold Camping already is (1994), and will be proven yet again in about three weeks. False prophets come, false prophets go, but Christ continues to build His church, not by the popularity of His teachings, but by the changing of the heart.
Guessing About God: Mormonism's Inability to Resist the Onslaught of Modernistic Skepticism (Part 5)
04/27/2011 - James WhiteI am continuing with my response to LDS writer Daniel McClellan’s blog article from April 8, 2011, found here. I note as well that Mr. McClellan has already begun replying to me, resulting in a very, and I mean very, large amount of text. My intention is to finish this initial response, comment briefly on anything I find helpful or necessary in his replies, and move on. I simply do not have time for this kind of extended, exponentially growing give and take. At least, my publisher says I do not.
Unfortunately for James’ position, self-identity is widely recognized as the most important criterion in religious identification, and virtually all Mormons self-identify as Christians (those that don’t do so only in reaction to arguments like James’).
Such an argument is again highly problematic for a Mormon apologist. The vast majority of polygamists living in Southern Utah “self-identify” as Mormons, but, that doesn’t keep the Salt Lake leadership from excommunicating them, does it? When Mr. McClellan says “self-identity is widely recognized as the most important criterion” does he tell us “by whom” this is recognized? Find out the answer to that, and you have his ultimate authority. Of course, once again, this assumes the parameters of the Christian faith are determined by current social norms or standards, or by studies done by “experts.” Such has never been the means of identifying the faith, and of course, never will be.
There is little evidentiary value in the observation that modern Mormonism claims to be “Christian.” That is not up for debate. The millions of followers of Jehovah’s Witnesses likewise believe their religious devotion is the “true” representation of Christ’s truth on earth today. The number of sects and groups making this claim is legion. And they all “self-identify,” too. So? If that is all we have as a criterion for what is, and what is not, “Christian,” we are left with the specter seen in Bart Ehrman’s conglomeration of groups making up the “early Christian movement,” so that the resultant mass of self-contradiction and irrationality is taken as the best argument against the divine nature of the faith ever offered. If this is the direction Mr. McClellan wishes to go, is he willing to embrace the necessary results of such a view, results that would assuredly denigrate the very claims to ultimate and final authority vested in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? ...
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Today on the Dividing Line: Apologetic Methodology and a Report
04/26/2011 - James WhiteStarted off with a brief report on my encounter with Brian McLaren on the Unbelievable program in London (the show airs on Saturday, we will link to it once it is posted). Then finished off the Ehrman/Licona dialogue, alson from Unbelievable, and then took a call from Patrick on the role of evidence in apologetics. Here's the program.
It's Been a While Since I Posted a Fractal....
04/26/2011 - James WhiteSome of the newer readers of this blog may not even know I do fractal art. Well, here we go...
That one, and more, can be found here.
But I decided to take it all the way, and put the design on a tie!
No, Brian McClaren had nothing to do with this. :-)
1 Corinthians 8, An Idol is Nothing in This World
04/26/2011 - James White
Interesting Story on Islamic (Shiite) Eschatology and the "Mahdi"
04/26/2011 - James WhiteIt is truly a reason for concern to think that people with this kind of end-times mania (which makes the most fevered adherent of the most fevered forms of the most fevered apocalyptic premillenialism look comatose) are working hard to get themselves an...atomic bomb.
Moving Tuesday's Dividing Line Time
04/25/2011 - James WhiteGiven that I will be at the office at 4:30am to be on Unbelievable in London with Brian McLaren, we are going to move the DL to the normal Thursday afternoon time (4pm PDT). Join us then!
The Real Story Behind the Harold Camping Decoder Ring
04/25/2011 - James SwanThis past Sunday my pastor announced that each member of the church received a copy of the latest Christian Renewal Magazine. We received this because it contained an article on Harold Camping. Over the past fifteen years we've had Family Radio supporters in our church (they've all since left, of course). There are a number of people my church is concerned about. Sure it's easy to laugh or mock Mr. Camping's upcoming doomsday debacle, but let us not forget that there are those who will suffer from all of this. What do you think will happen to the family in which the husband is an avid follower of Mr. Camping while his wife and children are not? I'm aware of situations like this, and they are dangerously frightening.
The Christian Renewal article is entitled "Harold Camping, Judgment Day, and the rest of the story" by URC minister Christopher Gordon. The article can also be found on his blog. Reverend Gordon brought out an odd coincidence that I'm not sure everyone is aware of:
Camping was also involved in the Alameda CRC as an elder and later an adult Sunday school teacher. On a given Sunday morning, Camping's Sunday school class drew almost half of the attendees of the Alameda CRC. The problems began, however, sometime before 1988 when Camping began to advance the idea that one could know from the Bible when Christ would return. When challenged that "no man knows the day nor the hour", Camping was known for responding, "yes, but we can know the month and the year." In 1992 Camping self-published his controversial book "1994?", in which he suggested the possibility that Christ would return sometime between September 15th and 27th of that year, dates corresponding to the Feast of Tabernacles. Camping would soon, unashamedly, predict September 6, 1994 as the date of Christ's return.
When Camping's first prediction failed, claiming miscalculation, he then began to reinvent his scheme with the idea that God ended the church age. "Sometime earlier" wrote Camping, "God was finished using the churches to represent the kingdom of God." In his book "We Are Almost There!" we find that Camping chose the date of May 21, 1988 for the end of the church age. Why this particular date? In an obscure time scheme combined with strange mathematical formulas, Camping was able to secure this date as the end of the church age. The common answer heard over the Open Forum was that around thirty-five years ago God began to open the true believer's understanding to know the entire timeline of history---a justification based on an obscure interpretation of Eccles. 8:5, and other detailed and often confusing studies in numerology.
What Harold Camping conveniently chose not to reveal is that May of 1988, reputedly, was the month the Alameda CRC began censuring Camping from teaching the adult Sunday school class. Though, according to bulletin records, the official announcement of the reorganization of the Sunday school class without Camping as the teacher was made public in the Sunday bulletin on June 5, 1988, the controversy climaxed in the weeks prior to this date, on or around the May 21 date. After a summer of conflict, church visitors were sent to assess the situation and turmoil in the congregation, and supported the Consistory's decision to deny Camping the privilege of teaching. The official date the elders took over the adult Sunday school class was September 11, 1988.
The whole controversy that spanned Camping's censure and departure from the church was roughly from May to September, 1988. Drawing a preliminary conclusion, is it really a coincidence that the period Camping's teaching controversy broke open in the church coincides with the "month and year", if not the exact date, that Camping would later declare the church age ended? Is it not the least bit suspect that Camping would later declare that the Holy Spirit was removed from the church beginning on May 21, 1988, the very same period Camping himself was removed from teaching 'in" the church? And is it not alarming that Camping now "outside" of the church would declare, soon after his own departure, that anyone still identified with any church is now under the judgment of God? In legal terms, I think it's safe to say we have motive.
Pride and bitterness had so overcome Camping that he was able to declare that upon the year of his censure and departure from the church, God was done with the entire church, and from that time forward, God would only work in the "true believers" who were willing to take the stand with Camping and come out of the church. This is a severe warning of what can happen to those who reject the elders who rule with the authority of Christ. Over forty percent of the Alameda CRC, many of whom were employed by Family Radio, "went out" from the church and subsequently started their own "fellowship".
So there you have it: The Holy Spirit was removed from the church because Mr. Camping was removed from the church. I haven't checked over Reverend Gordon's facts, but if indeed this is the case, this is a very odd coincidence.
04/25/2011 - James WhiteTurn your sound up!
Guessing About God: Mormonism's Inability to Resist the Onslaught of Modernistic Skepticism (Part 4)
04/25/2011 - James White[continued from Part 3]
Additionally, given that Christianity must be allowed to define itself (as James asserts), in any objective approach to the question, Mormonism must be allowed to participate in that process of definition. To preclude Mormonism from Christianity’s self-definition is, again, begging the question. It assumes the conclusion in setting up the premise. Would it be begging the question in the opposite direction to allow Mormonism to contribute to the definition of Christianity? No. Mormonism claims to be Christian just like James claims to be Christian, and according to many Christians, Mormonism meets the criteria.
It is hard to see this argument as anything more than, “Do too!” How can Mormonism, a religion that began by condemning all of Christianity while claiming itself to be the One True Church, seriously look us all in the eye today and say, “Well, hey, we began April 6, 1830, but, we get to participate in the definition of Christianity.” Really? A religion that speaks of God living on a planet that circles a star named Kolob that arose more than 650,000 days after the founding of Christianity is relevant to the defining of that faith? So if someone proclaims himself a prophet today, and starts a new religion that speaks of new gods from new planets, that fellow gets to have a seat at the table too, as long as he claims to be “Christian”? The term “audacious” comes to mind when one considers the reality of such an argument.
This kind of argument forces us to consider the basis upon which any faith is to be defined, and in particular, the basis upon which the Christian faith is to be defined. Some religions would have to give anyone who came along a “seat at the table” by their very nature. But Christianity speaks of objective truth, eternal truth. And our Scriptures speak of the τῇ ἅπαξ παραδοθείσῃ τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστει, the “once-for-all delivered to the saints faith” (Jude 3). One does not have to close one’s eyes to the controversies of the following centuries to continue to believe that God delivered His truth to His people, and then safeguarded those truths by working a heart-felt faithfulness to the whole counsel of God in the Scriptures in the lives and minds of the elect. It is just this ability on God’s part (or willingness on His part) that is denied by Mormonism with its doctrine of “total apostasy,” wherein the LDS Church teaches that even if God had delivered the faith originally, He allowed it to disappear from the earth, necessitating not a reformation, but a restoration. As Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie put it,
Has no one read the promises made of old that the Lord Jesus cannot return "except there come a falling away first" (2Thess.2:1-12); that before that day, "darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people" (Isa.60:2; D&C 112:23-24); that the whole earth "is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant" (Isa.24:5)? Does anyone really suppose that the sects of modern Christendom-with their silks and robes and rituals; with their notions of a salvation without works and by grace alone; with neither signs, nor miracles, nor apostles, nor prophets, nor revelation-does anyone really believe such a Christianity is the same as that of Jesus and Peter and Paul? (The Mortal Messiah, 3:436-37) TLDP:30...
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Guessing About God: Mormonism's Inability to Resist the Onslaught of Modernistic Skepticism (Part 3)
04/22/2011 - James WhiteI have been responding to an article by Daniel O. McClellan regarding the status of Mormonism and its claims to be a Christian religion. I continue my response in this, the third part.
These are peculiar fundamental defining issues, as every single one is a direct response to an ostensibly LDS ideology. If the above are the fundamental defining issues of Christianity, then we must conclude that Christianity is fundamentally defined by its distinction from Mormonism. James, no doubt, does not mean to imply that Christianity only exists and has an identity insofar as it opposes Mormonism. He’s just not paying attention to his methodologies, and his conclusion is more important in crafting his argument than having a good argument. His definition of Christianity must be easily contrasted with Mormonism and must focus exclusively on those aspects of his brand of Christianity which distinguish it. It must be crafted with the goal of differentiation in mind. Defining Christianity in preparation for tackling the question of whether or not Mormonism is Christian by explaining how Christianity is distinguished from Mormonism is a textbook example of begging the question. James’ conclusion is assumed in his premise. His definition of Christianity is invalid if he hopes to assert any logical or academic basis for his argument.
Over the past century and a half, once the outlines of Joseph Smith’s final doctrine of God became known outside the narrow confines of LDS activity (the first responses to Mormonism did not note a fundamental issue with Smith’s doctrine of God simply because the entire First Vision story is a later accretion, a development unknown to the first critics of Mormonism), the consistent rejection of Mormonism as a Christian religion by the entire spectrum of Christian churches has been based, first and foremost, upon the doctrine of God. Consider Christian history. When Arius presented a Christ who was not fully God, a Jesus who was “heteroousios,” of another substance from the Father, his views were branded heretical, for Arianism, despite its willingness to refer to Jesus in divine categories, was fundamentally sub-biblical. Before this, in the East, the error of modalism, a confusion of the divine Persons, had been examined, and rejected. Fundamental to all of these discussions was the overwhelming testimony of the divinely inspired Scriptures, that is, Yahweh is the eternal creator of all things, and there is no God other than Him. Monotheism is not a negotiable for the Christian faith, and it never has been. This is why I began the video as I did: as long as Christianity is allowed to define itself, the answer to the question of Mormonism is not difficult. It is only when the divine inspiration and consistency of the Bible is denied (as Mormonism does), and the consistency of belief of the Christian people on the fact that there is only one true God is made to be only as relevant as the views of a religious sect from the Intermountain West that arose 1800 years after the founding of the Christian faith, that the question can be made difficult or complex. ...
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Continued Examination of the Licona/Ehrman Discussion on Unbelievable
04/21/2011 - James WhiteAlmost made it through, but not quite. Spent the hour listening to, and commenting on, the exchange from Unbelievable. I will finish it up on Tuesday. Here's the program.
Guessing About God: Mormonism's Inability to Resist the Onslaught of Modernistic Skepticism (Part 2)
04/20/2011 - James WhiteIn Response to Mr. McClellan
I would like to respond point by point to Mr. McClellan’s claims in his article. I am uncertain as to the source of his familiarity with me, as we have, to my knowledge, never met, but it is possible that in modern Mormon homes, using someone’s first name, even if they are older than you are, and unknown to you, has become the standard. He will forgive me if I do not address him as “Dan” or the like. After linking to my video and that of Elder Holland, he notes, “In doing so he tries to paint a picture of a shifting and manipulative Mormonism working to hide its disparity from Christianity in the interest of seducing converts.” You will not find this kind of language in my original video, of course. What I noted was Mormonism’s seeking to “mainline,” and the resultant shifts in emphasis and presentation. There is no doubt about that, of course. Evidently, this is simply how Mr. McClellan “hears” criticisms of the modern LDS presentation of itself.
Now, I will not take the time here to reiterate the scathing attacks upon “traditional Christianity” that are part of the historical record of Mormonism. I cannot assume, however, that Mr. McClellan is familiar with them. I say this because I have observed a very distinct historical blindness on the part of certain LDS apologists associated with BYU. For example, I included an entire chapter documenting the consistency of teaching over time by the LDS General Authorities on the subject of the human parentage of Jesus in response to the attempt on the part of Daniel C. Peterson and Steven D. Ricks to dismiss this teaching as mere 19th century speculation. So if Mr. McClellan represents the first generation fully raised in the new era where Bruce R. McConkie was not giving firesides that blasted “new views,” he may well have an interesting and less-than-full view of his own history. So for his sake, I will remind us of just a few of the statements that can be collected from the early years of Mormonism wherein it is Mormonism itself seeking to “decouple” (his term) itself from Christianity. Here is just such a brief collection.
He then writes, “The two primary issues which seem to define Christianity for James, at least as it relates to Mormonism, are monotheism and the atonement.” Well, these are two of the fundamental differences between Christianity and Mormonism, yes, but I was truly taken aback by the level of confusion on Mr. McClellan’s part relating to this first, and most important, element of my presentation. He will argue, as we will soon see, that I am “begging the question” by how I stated it, and that in the process I make Mormonism the normative standard by which I define Christianity! This is absurd, of course, so he concludes that I have not approached the question properly. In fact, he even argues that Mormonism should be given a voice in defining Christianity. Think about this for a moment: that which has existed for nearly two millennia should be defined on the basis of that which came into existence April 6, 1830. No, logically, that which comes into existence April 6, 1830 is to be judged on the basis of what had existed long before it came along. But that is disastrous for the modern Mormon who is attempting to make room in the Christian faith for a belief that is fundamentally “other.” ...
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Unbelievable: The Conference May 14
04/19/2011 - James WhiteGiven how useful I find Justin Brierley's program in London (and yes, I enjoy participating in the program), I thought I would mention for our UK readers the upcoming conference Justin is putting on. You can read all about it here. And don't forget to tune in Thursday as I continue my review of the Licona/Ehrman discussion from last Saturday's Unbelievable program.
You've Got Mail, George Bryson Attacks, and the Ehrman/Licona Resurrection Discussion on Unbelievable
04/19/2011 - James WhiteStarted off reading a certified letter that was sent to me from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Very insightful. Then discussed George Bryson's article (noted on the blog earlier), then got into playing the key portions of last Saturday's Unbelievable program from London, where Justin Brierley had on Bart Ehrman and Mike Licona. Another important examination of how Christian truth can be presented in an anti-Christian world. Here's the program.
The Continuing Saga of Robert Sungenis
04/19/2011 - James SwanWhich of Rome's defenders is at the front of the battle, zealously seeking to protect and instruct the Roman church? Catholic Answers you say? No, it's none other than Catholic Apologetics International (CAI) founded by Robert Sungenis. His website states, "CAI is a Catholic lay apostolate dedicated to the teachings of Jesus Christ preserved by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. It stands on the forefront of Catholic Apologetics, explaining Catholicism to fellow Catholics and defending it against her opponents."
Robert Sungenis is not your typical Roman Catholic apologist. For instance, while many of today's ecumenically minded Roman Catholics can't make any definite statements on Martin Luther's eternal destiny, Robert has no problem locating him in hell. This type of sentiment was typical of earlier generations of Rome's champions.
About this time last year, Robert said the following about Roman Catholic apologetics:
"I think it is good, at least compared to what it was about 25 years ago when Catholic apologetics was practically non-existent. But I think it could be much better today if we all banded together and used each other gifts and talents instead of competing with one another. As the saying goes, all ships rise with the tide."
"Overall, I would say that EWTN, Catholic Answers and Hahn-CUF are, for lack of a better term, somewhat milquetoast when it comes to dealing with the more controversial and significant problems occurring in the Church and in the world. My assessment is that they either don't know where the real battles are or they know and choose to ignore them, and have more or less settled into a politically-correct apologetic."
"I would expect the EWTN-like apostolates to have the lion's share of the Catholic "apologetics" community, whereas I would expect apostolates like ours to attract the deep thinkers and politically-incorrect crowd. That's just the nature of the respective animals. But that's ok. We each have our gifts, strengths and focus. I think God is using us all, but I think He would like to see us all get along much better than we have, and that is what all three groups need to pray for."
Now a year later, he says the following:
I, being an independent Catholic theologian, am able to penetrate a little more deeply and be much more critical, as I have always done in this apostolate. Although some still regard me as a "Catholic apologist," unlike Jimmy Akin and Catholic Answers I no longer consider myself an apologist for the modern Catholic Church. When compared to the Catholic Church of tradition, I have resolved that the modern Catholic Church will be required to stand on its own, for I simply cannot defend it any longer. There are simply too many doctrinal aberrations and moral laxities in today's Catholic Church that are indefensible. In light of these problems, I have assumed what I believe is the more appropriate position - that of being a prophet of warning rather than one an apologist seeking to exonerate the Church from false accusations. Today many accusations against the Church are quite legitimate and I certainly will not be a party to sweeping them under the rug. Hence, I presently take my model from that of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and all the other prophets who spoke out against similar doctrinal aberrations and moral laxities that occurred in Israel before God finally judged them. I believe that if the modern Catholic Church stays on the course it has chosen, it also will be judged by God as Israel was, and, in fact, it is already being judged as we have seen the deterioration in the Church for the last few decades. I'm sorry to have to say this, but from all my knowledge and experience, I would have to say that the last few pontificates have been an almost total disaster for the Catholic Church, especially the pontificate of John Paul II.
I'm assuming Robert isn't at all pleased by this news: Decree on the Liturgical Observance of the Cult of Blessed John Paul II.
Some may wonder if Robert is all alone, the lone prophet warning Rome of God's wraith. He's not, he's the second popular apologist turned modern day prophet to warn Rome. Let us not forget, Gerry Matatics, Catholic Apologist For the last days. The difference so far is that Gerry believes all those bishops alleged to have ascended to the papacy subsequent to the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958 up through the present (which would include John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI) are not only counterfeit popes, but are also counterfeit Catholics, since they have espoused modernist heresies such as maintaining ecumenical relations with Protestants and other non-Catholics, and have perpetuated other teachings and practices upheld by Vatican II which were deemed to be heretical by previous Catholic councils.
What's Robert's exact view now? To my knowledge, he hasn't stated he's a Sedevacantist. But his comments sure do sound like he's heading that way. From going through his website though, it does not appear he's at all interested in becoming a Sedevacantist (see for instance, his discussion here). He's debated Sedevacantists, and appears to dialog with any questions on the issue. Sungenis states,
As I have repeatedly suggested to the traditionalists, you have a much better chance of saving the Church if you fight the battle from within the Church rather than from outside. You've already lost the battle if you fight from outside... There is no reason to cut off your nose (the pope) to spite your face, since it would be quite impossible for us not to have a legitimate pope for the last six popes (as the Dimond brothers teach) and still believe Jesus' words that the gates of hell shall not prevail. We all know that the popes have made mistakes, but none of us has the mandate or the authority from God to declare that any of them are anti-popes, except another pope.
Guessing About God: Mormonism's Inability to Resist the Onslaught of Modernistic Skepticism (Part 1)
04/18/2011 - James WhiteI was recently referred to a blog article by a young Mormon writer and scholar, Daniel McClellan. He seems like a bright, intelligent young man, though, sadly, he has clearly been influenced by the less-than-mature behavioral ticks of his mentors at BYU, men like Daniel C. Peterson and William Hamblin. We will note how this mars his otherwise interesting article below.
I would like to use Mr. McClellan’s discussion in two ways. First, I wish to use it as a lens through which to view the rapidly changing landscape within Mormonism. Secondly, I would like to respond to his claims and demonstrate that the current forms of Mormon apologetic are incoherent and self-referentially destructive (let alone just bad examples of apologetic argumentation in defense of Joseph Smith’s religion).
It might be best to provide the context first. I had been sent a link to a promotional video featuring Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, speaking at the General Conference of the LDS Church. It was actually an edited version, with background music and the like. Mr. McClellan linked to the actual talk, or, at least a longer section of the talk. Let’s listen to what this Apostle of the LDS Church had to say:
There are many things that can and should be said in response to this assertion. You will note that, ironically, Holland engages in the very activity McClellan will accuse me of, only, this time, he is really doing it for the very “sectarian” purposes McClellan attributes to me. Specifically, he makes a confusing and unclear presentation of the Christian position relating to the Bible’s teaching about God’s nature (monotheism, the existence of three divine Persons, the equality of those Persons), and uses the context-less “strangeness” of the resultant presentation as a “sectarian” argument against the historic position of Christians relating to the Trinity. The Christian with an understanding of his faith quickly realizes that Holland either does not understand Christian beliefs, or is misrepresenting them. In either case, the presentation called for some kind of response. The version I saw was different, however. I’m pretty certain this is the one I had seen:
This is the response I recorded:
The New Mormon Apologists
Anyone who has spent time reading in the early LDS sources (in such compilations as the Journal of Discourses, or in works such as Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, etc.) knows that there is a deep and pervasive anti-establishment mindset in the thinking of Smith and his early compatriots. The reason is obvious, of course: though the First Vision was not actually a part of the earliest apologetic of the LDS movement (indeed, evidence shows it to be a later accretion, coming toward the end of Smith’s life, and is not contemporary with the founding of the LDS Church in 1830), the movement was still very “restorationist” and hence anti-establishment in its outlook. Almost all charismatic, prophet-led movements of the day emphasized the direct spiritual nature of its leaders so as to give it a foundation to move away from the established churches. Mormonism was no different, but that emphasis remained central even after the relative isolation of the religion in the inter-mountain West. Mormons even to recent times were well known for eschewing “human wisdom” and the authority of “scholarship.” ...
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A Sad Blast from George Bryson
04/17/2011 - James WhiteOver the past few years I have experienced what has become a regular occurrence when traveling and speaking across the US, UK, and Australia. I will be approached by someone, most often a man, who tells me his story of being a member of a Calvary Chapel, following the exhortation to read and study the Scriptures, and coming to an understanding of God's sovereign grace and the perfection of the work of Christ on the cross. He will talk about how he began to ask questions, and very soon encountered a great deal of resistance, even being labeled a trouble maker. Many report they have left, and have found a home where the whole counsel of God is taught. Some are still there, fighting the good fight. I have stated now, a number of times, on the Dividing Line, that the current Calvary Chapel leadership will continue producing Calvinists as long as they continue to 1) ignore the reality of the system they oppose (choosing to present shallow straw-man versions and responses, as we have documented so many times), 2) while encouraging their followers to believe in all the Bible says, to study it, and to apply it. Over the past year many of those who approach me (I had two or three do this just last weekend in Minneapolis) use this same terminology to describe their own experience. "You know how you say Calvary Chapel produces Calvinists? Well, that's me!"
It is painfully obvious that Calvary Chapel's appointed Czar of Anti-Calvinism, George Bryson, is smarting over this reality, one that he knows is truthful and representative of the experience of Calvary Chapels around the world. So he has posted an article expressing his frustration, here. Does he provide a meaningful, biblical refutation of the exegesis of the key passages that keep leading people to the conclusion that Reformed theology is consistent and biblical? No, that has never been George's forte. Instead, he creates another caricature, a bogeyman, to continue his attempts to frighten the sheep away from even thinking about considering both sides of the discussion. He paints of picture of poor me, with an "impotent gospel," running around trying to convert Calvary Chapel folks, since I can't witness with power to anyone else. It is sad to see George stoop so low. He knows he will not debate the key biblical texts against me (at least not with cross-examination!), and so he knows he can only snipe from afar, never engaging me directly (despite his bravado in claiming he will). So he has to ignore the reality that my focus has never been, and never will be, upon "evangelizing" Calvary Chapel folks. They hear what I have to say because they are looking for solid apologetic responses to atheism, liberalism, Islam, Mormonism, etc., and find those responses at aomin.org or in books such as The King James Only Controversy or The God Who Justifies or The Forgotten Trinity. I do not seek out Calvary Chapel folks: they seek me, mainly because they see me out engaging the Muslims or Mormons or atheists in the public square! This caricature of Bryson's rings so hollow, it can only cause the thoughtful Calvary Chapel attendee to once again think the unthinkable: is it possible the current leadership of Calvary Chapel engages in this kind of straw-man, shallow argumentation because they truly do not have any answers to the big questions of the gospel? And once that question is examined, well...the results I see over and over again.
Just one note of correction (amongst many that could be offered) to George's little blast. Note how he attempts to say that for Calvinists to preach the gospel to the lost, we must insist upon simply repeating the five points. This may be effective in his attempts to keep the ignorant in their ignorance, but once someone starts to think clearly and cogently on the topic, his argumentation becomes...silly. No serious minded person thinks that we are insisting that evangelism is nothing more than repeating the five points. The five points are biblical truths that George Bryson cannot refute, and continues, to this day, to hide from debating openly. But they are points that provide the framework in which one crafts one's presentation so as to be consistent with biblical truth. So, one will not encourage the lost person to set himself up as judge, jury and executioner of God's truth when one knows that God is the sovereign Creator and man is the rebel sinner, incapable of judging God. One will not present the work of Christ as a "nice thing God did for you" that then becomes the ground of trying to guilt the sinner into "doing something for God" when the biblical teaching of atonement is forefront in one's mind. So George's article only adds to the Calvary Chapel Conundrum: if you accurately represent the other side, folks may find the other side to be consistent and biblical; if you do not accurately represent the other side, folks will wonder why you are using double standards and dishonesty, and will look more closely at the other side. Such is the quandary of the one stuck representing man's traditions rather than the whole and consistent truth of Scripture.
My How Things Have Changed: A Brief Contemplation of Joseph Smith's Perversion of Romans 4
04/15/2011 - James WhiteI've told the story a number of times. Young college kid...19 years old, poor as a church mouse, riding a Suzuki GS750L home from school. Newly married. Stops at the LDS bookstore because he's studying this strange religion so as to witness to Mormons. He's been seeing a source cited over and over again in the books he is reading. It is called The Journal of Discourses. So he asks the nice lady behind the counter if they have this resource. "Why yes," she kindly replies (her name is Mary), right up there on that shelf." She points behind him, and he looks. There on the top shelf is a 26 volume set of paperback books, with an index, in a cardboard slip cover. Cost? $69.00. That's $69 in 1982 dollars. That's more than 1/3 of his total take-home pay for the week. And he's been married only a few months. And he has to get this 26-volume set of books onto the back of a motorcycle using bungie cords. But, he bought them anyway, and over the next number of years, they were extremely helpful in doing research and study into the teachings of the LDS church.
Fast forward to today. Over the past six or seven years I have really moved away from the two major areas that began this ministry, specifically, interacting with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. We haven't simply abandoned those areas, but they are not in the forefront of my study and thought. So today as I was working on a response to this article on the web, I had to do some looking around, some checking of sources. I had noticed over the past few years a number of books coming out that contained information that we had only heard rumors of back in the 1980s. Books that would have been major resources in the work we were doing then. And I have been keeping my LDS Scriptures programs up to date on my Droid and on my iPad as well. But I started looking around and discovered that not only could I put that entire 26-volume set of books I once paid $69 for on my iPad in fully searchable form, but anyone can now access them on the web, here. All the old paper sources we used to lug around photocopies of (I dug out the HUGE three ring binder I used to carry around just to leaf through it today) are now available in portable, fully searchable versions. When I think of the bags I used to carry in Salt Lake a Mesa, filled with Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the like, well, now all I'd need would be my Droid or my iPod/iPad. Things change.
Here is one interesting thing I noted after installing the free LDS Scriptures app from the Mormon Church. They include the JST, the Joseph Smith Translation. I feel like putting quotes around "Translation" because, obviously, it is anything but an actual translation. Smith could no more read Greek and Hebrew than he could read "Reformed Egyptian Hieroglyphics." A quick glance at the Book of Abraham proves that. But in any case, if you click on the JST in this app, and look at Romans 4, this is all you see. Now, being away from the specific area of Mormonism for a while may have given me a little perspective, as I've been dealing with Islam, textual issues relating to the Qur'an, as well as doing more apologetic work in textual criticism of the NT (debating men like John Dominic Crossan, Bart Ehrman, and Robert Price). And as I look at this screen shot from my iPad2, I am struck at the inanity of Smith's "inspired" changes to the text. These are not corruptions of the text to be imputed to scribal carelessness. How did the rest of the chapter escape unscathed? No, these are doctrinal changes flowing directly out of the furtive mind of Joseph Smith, who never understood grace. Look at the most notorious of his changes, where he inserts "not" into the text, so that God is no longer the one who justifies the ungodly, but the one who does not justify the ungodly! In one fell swoop Smith turns Paul's entire argument on its head, all because he did not understand it, and held to a basically Pelagian view of man's nature. That's what happens when someone claims to be a "prophet" who is, in fact, little more than a charlatan with a charismatic persona. This is also why Mormonism cannot produce a meaningful, thoroughly LDS, commentary on Scripture. Its beginning presuppositions are so far removed from the Bible that it just isn't possible to bridge the gap without thoroughly compromising one's commitment to Smith as a prophet. This is surely the challenge that lies before the pioneers of the New Mormonism today.
In any case, things sure have changed a lot since the "old days." If you are active in witnessing to Mormons, avail yourself of the resources now available, and may the Lord bring ever more out of darkness to the marvelous light of the gospel.
David Wood Discusses Encroaching Dhimmitude in Western Thinking
04/15/2011 - James WhiteThink about it:
Secularists, such as those in charge of the United States government, will gladly engage in religious persecution and favoritism in the interests of "the state."
Pray that God will have mercy and give His people freedom to preach the Gospel to His glory.
Sam Harris, Norman Geisler, and the Non-Denominational Denomination, on Today's DL
04/14/2011 - James WhiteNice to have had internet connectivity during the entirety of the Dividing Line today, that's for sure. Finished up the Harris rebuttal in the recent (expensive) debate from Notre Dame, then listened to Norman Geisler on a national radio program dodge a clear question focused upon the incoherence of his views of divine sovereignty, and then addressed an e-mail about how to handle being in the non-denominational denomination and yet seeing clearly the truths of Reformed theology in Scripture. Here's the program.
A Sermon for Ergun Caner and Norman Geisler
04/14/2011 - James WhiteDelivered yesterday by Paige Patterson. As you listen to it, remember...
Born in Istanbul, studied in madrassas in Istanbul, Cairo, and Beirut; speaks Arabic; done many debates with Muslims, even in Arabic, in mosques! Debated Shabir Ally in Nebraska; father an "ulema" who was surrounded by "caliphs" on his death bed, and who was a polygamist who brought his "wives" with him to America; Ergun Caner coming to the US in 1979 (having lived only in majority Muslim countries). All in an attempt to pad a resume (a point Patterson addresses) and to create a persona.
Here's Dr. Patterson's sermon on the 9th Commandment.
And let us remember: it has now been nine full months since this video was posted, asking three important questions of Norman Geisler who continues, to this day, to host the fully refuted excuses Ergun Caner has provided to him (click here). Nine months of silence from the main engineer of the Great Evangelical Cover-Up. Truly shameful.
Today on a DeadCast DL
04/12/2011 - James WhiteDeadcast, i.e., once again, though we had perfect connectivity all weekend, 50 minutes before the program, BOOM, network outages. Rich has spent the past four hours since the program working on stuff, and, for the moment, we are back up and seemingly operational. For now. In any case, started off with the announcement of the 2012 Apologetics Cruise out of Galveston, TX, headed for the Caribbean. Mike O'Fallon, my dear brother who founded Sovereign Christian Cruises as a result of running our first few cruises way back when, joined me to talk about the event, which you can read about by clicking on the banner ad that Hacim, Son of Ramalah, King of Graphics, produced for us in record time. My topics are already listed, and we are looking into expanding the cruise with a possible debate. That is all up to the Lord. In any case, there is a special, and really low, price available only this week, so please take the time to look at the information and see if you might wish to join us! After talking to Mike I spent the rest of the program interacting with the William Lane Craig/Sam Harris debate. I was shocked at Harris' approach and presentation, and did not even finish his 12 minute rebuttal (I will conclude the examination on Thursday's program). Hopefully our phones and internet will be working then, and if so, I would like to hear your thoughts as well! Here's the program.
Back from Minneapolis: Tomorrow on the DL
04/11/2011 - James WhiteGlad to be home, though I had a great time at the Psalm 119 conference with Todd Friel, Phil Johnson and all the folks up there in the frozen North (which was 20 degrees warmer on Saturday than it was in Phoenix, if you can believe that). Got back in the saddle today, have so far crunched out 100k on the bike, 1250 crunches, listened to all of the WLC/Harris debate (commentary tomorrow on the DL!), and TRYING to dig through a large backlog of e-mails. I have an LDS blog to respond to as soon as I can, though that may end up being a multi-part series here on the blog. In any case, Lord willing, we will be on the air at the regular time tomorrow (our office internet problems seem to be over).
Off to Minneapolis
04/07/2011 - James WhiteWell, I got through TSA without experiencing what Phil Johnson did, so that's a good thing. Headed for the wild (and much cooler) North, back to my hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Looking forward to meeting the Freakishly Tall One (been on his show, never met him in person---not sure what to expect!), and catching up with Phil Johnson (I think the last time I saw him was in Brisbane...I think). No, I am not flying Southwest, either. Of course, I will have just landed in MN at the normal DL time, so, no program today. Looking forward to meeting everyone over the weekend!
Yesterday on a Shortened Dividing Line
04/06/2011 - James WhiteI am starting to think Peter Lumpkins has relatives that work for Cox Communications. We started off with a brief discussion of Harold Camping and what to do with Campingites starting May 22, 2011. Then we looked again at some Silly Atheist Bible Thumper Arguments, managed a whopping 15 more seconds of Abdullah Kunde's comments from a recent debate (at this rate we will finish that up in 2034), and talked to Steve from Maine about sanctification and free will. Right up to when Cox dumped our internet feed AND our phones. They told us it was a DHCP renewal. Yeah, that dumps phones? I don't think so. Anyway, the saga goes on, now with a new modem, phone box, and internal lines. Here's the program.
The Lordship of Christ Over All Things (Including the Academy!)
04/05/2011 - James WhiteThe best laid plans of mice and men.... We were supposed to have one of those "back rooms" at a local restaurant to have a get-together with the staff of Trinity Law School while I was over there a few weeks ago. But, once we got there, we discovered the room wasn't available. Ok, had a nice breakfast and headed to the school itself, but, it was a Saturday, and the exterminator had just sprayed the building! So, we set up out front. I wasn't sure how the recording would go, but though you can surely tell it is outside, it is really not hard to follow the discussion. Just some thoughts on seeking to be consistent Christians in teaching and engaging the world in the academic realm, encouraging students to live and learn under the Lordship of Christ, etc.
Tonight on Iron Sharpens Iron....
04/04/2011 - James WhiteI will be joining Chris Arnzen on Iron Sharpens Iron tonight at 7pm EDT. Listen in!
A Parody That Accomplishes Its Task
04/03/2011 - James White